After the death of her mother, high-schooler Ruby is sent from Boston to L.A. to live with the father she has never met: “He’s such a scumbag / that he divorced my mother / before I was even born.” The “scumbag” is Whip Logan, a famous movie actor, but Ruby is too angry to be impressed; at the airport she wonders whether to “ask him for his autograph, / or kick him in the balls.” Sones’ latest free-verse novel follows Ruby through her first few months in her new home, a mansion where her every desire is granted—except what she longs for most: her best friend, her boyfriend, and of course, her mother. Sones’ novel is an unusual combination of over-the-top Hollywood fairy tale and sharp, honest story about overcoming grief … It’s Ruby’s first-person voice—acrimonious, raw, and very funny—that pulls everything together, whether she is writing e-mails to her deceased mother or attending Dream Analysis class at a private L.A. high schoo l… A satisfying, moving novel that will be a winner for both eager and reluctant readers. —Gillian Engberg
In one- to two-page breezy poetic prose-style entries, 15-year-old Ruby Milliken describes her flight from Boston to California and her gradual adjustment to life with her estranged movie-star father following her mother’s death. E-mails to her best friend, her boyfriend, and her mother (“in heaven”) and outpourings of her innermost thoughts display her overwhelming unhappiness and feelings of isolation, loss, and grief (“… most days / I wander around Lakewood feeling invisible. / Like I’m just a speck of dust / floating in the air / that can only be seen / when a shaft of light hits it”). Ruby’s affable personality is evident in her humorous quips and clever wordplays. Her depth of character is revealed through her honest admissions, poignant revelations, and sensitive insights. This is not just another one of those gimmicky novels written in poetry. It’s solid and well written, and Sones has a lot to say about the importance of carefully assessing people and situations and about opening the door to one’s own happiness … Ruby’s story is gripping, enjoyable, and memorable. —Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
This winning portrayal of a teenage-girl’s loves and losses, written in Sones’s (What My Mother Doesn’t Know) signature free-verse style, opens as 15-year-old Ruby is en route from Boston to L.A. (“Hell A” as she calls it). Following her mother’s untimely death (in a poem called “Maybe You’re Wondering About It” Ruby furiously says, “But that’s just tough. / Because I’m not even going to go in / to how she died”), Ruby leaves behind her best friend Lizzie and her boyfriend Ray to live with a father she’s never even met. Whip Logan, a famous actor, seems anxious to kindle a relationship; however, when Ruby meets him she thinks “I don’t know whether to ask him for his autograph, / kick him in the balls, / or run.” The scene in California proves “deeply surreal”: neighbor Cameron Diaz pops over, Brad Pitt grins at her in the local bookstore, and at the high school, she enrolls in “Dream Interpretation Through the Ages …” Ruby’s voice conveys genuine emotion. Ages 12 and up.
In a story worthy of Hollywood, 15-year-old Ruby moves to L.A. to join her estranged father, the movie star Whip Logan, when her mother dies. The grieving Ruby, given the fulfillment of many a teen’s fantasies, is nothing but sullen at being wrenched away from her Boston home and friends and plunked into the middle of the celebrity district of Beverly Hills with a father she’s never known. Short stream-of-consciousness free-verse poems make up most of the narrative, by turns bathing readers in Ruby’s emotions and treating them to very sharp, very funny observations about L.A … Ruby’s eventual adjustment and her rapprochement with her father (cue the violins) will come as no surprise to readers but, hey—this is Hollywood after all, and sometimes a happy ending is exactly what we need. (Fiction, 12+)
It is true that the mother dies, but this hilarious and painfully real novel in verse and letters is anything but hideous. Ruby Milliken knows everything that she needs to know about her father, Whip Logan, whom she has not seen since she was a baby. He is a world-class actor, and more important, a world-class jerk who left her and her mother and never wrote once. When her mother dies, however, Ruby is sent from her home in Massachusetts to Los Angeles to live with him. She resolves not to like him, a decision that is steadily worn down by a mutual love of classic cars and some first-rate mediation by Max, Whip’s personal assistant. As the school year progresses, Ruby finds a home in Los Angeles and makes some important discoveries about Whip’s absence from her life.
Whip Logan might be in the movies, but Sones’s sparse, carefully chosen prose is the star here, conveying Ruby’s conflicts of home, friendship and family in a sympathetic, thoroughly believable manner. Ruby’s grieving for her mother is heartbreaking, but also humorous and never overwrought. Without being preachy, Sones addressed stereotyping, variations of friendship, betrayal by loved ones, and parent-child relationships. Readers will cry as easily as they laugh at Ruby’s frank observations of life in, as she calls it, Hellywood, even if they do not have teachers named Feather who make them keep a dream journal. —Carlisle K. Webber
When this story opens, 15-year-old Ruby says, “My life better not turn out to be like one of those hideous books where the mother dies.” She hates books like that, where the main character's mother dies, she has to go live with her alcoholic father who beats her, and she turns into a psychopathic ax murderer. Ruby doesn't want that. But she doesn't want what she has either. Her mother has just died, and she's flying off to Hollywood to live with a father she has never even known, the famous actor Whip Logan, who divorced her mother before Ruby was born … Ruby is miserable in Hollywood, and she is determined never to give her father a break. She lives in a mansion with a front hall twice the size of her old house, an indoor fishpond, a curved marble staircase and a bedroom right out of her dreams. She is committed to detesting it all, including the drives to school in any of her father's several classic cars, the bizarre array of actors' sons and daughters at her new school and classes such as Freudian Dream Interpretation. Still, it is kind of cool to have Cameron Diaz as a next-door neighbor. For all of her acute and humorous observations of the high school scene and her self-righteous attacks on her father, there are things Ruby doesn't know or understand, and there are surprises in store for her and the reader. Sonya Sones is one of the leading practitioners of the novel in verse for young adult readers, and readers will enjoy this new book every bit as much as her previous novel, What My Mother Doesn't Know, a huge hit with teens. Ruby's voice is pitch-perfect, with all of the humor, high spirits, melodrama and wisecracking typical of a smart teenager plopped down in an unwanted situation. —Dean Schneider
Sones is a gifted writer of novels in verse (Her novel What My Mother Doesn’t Know was selected as an ALA Best Book for YAs and KLIATT chose it as an outstanding YA novel of 2002.) This story told in a series of brief poems interspersed with e-mails and letters, could have been just another story about celebrity—the narrator’s father is a famous movie star. It evolves into much more than that! Ruby is the narrator. Her parents were divorced before she was born and she never knew her father. Now her mother has died of cancer and the story begins as Ruby is flying to California from the East Coast to live with this father she despises because she thinks he deserted her and her mother … The story moves on to details of the luxury of her father’s home and way of life, and Ruby’s private school, filled with children of celebrities … YAs will love this book—for the emotional storms, for the details of life among the rich and famous, and for the basic character of Ruby—smart, responsible, resilient. —Claire Rosser
The sassy title tells readers right away that this book is NOT like one of those hideous books where the mother dies, even if fifteen-year-old Ruby's mom has recently succumbed to cancer. Sonya Sones has made a reputation for engrossing and emotionally valid verse novels with her two previous books, Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy and What My Mother Doesn't Know, and here she has the good sense to avoid the platitudes of the tearjerker, focusing not on the melodrama of death but on the grieving process of a feisty teen—sometimes even with humor.
Ruby has turned her grief into anger at her father: because he divorced her mother before she was born, because she has had to leave her best friend Lizzie and her boyfriend Ray to come to Los Angeles to live with him, and because he is Whip Logan, a very famous and rich movie star. She turns a cold shoulder to all his gentle and persistent attempts to relate to her, sneers at the glamour of his Beverly Hills mansion and famous friends, and spends most of her time writing desperate emails to Lizzie and Ray, and her dead mother, from her Dream Bedroom. The friendship of Max, Whip's live-in assistant/personal trainer, is some comfort, and Ruby has a harder and harder time keeping her sneer as Whip ups the ante, from rides in his classic vintage cars, to shopping trips for anything she wants, to weekends in Las Vegas and Catalina and a party where Eminem is the guest of honor. But an earthquake leads to a surprising revelation that changes everything for Ruby, in an enormously satisfying ending. (Ages 12 and older) —Patty Campbell
I loved One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies ... The story starts on an airplane, as 15-year-old Ruby flies from the East Coast to Beverly Hills, California, to meet her father for the first time. Her mother has just died, and Ruby isn't too happy to be meeting a man who has acted in tons of movies yet hasn't found the time to even send her a birthday card. She decides to be as horrible to him as possible ... Ruby's father, Whip Logan, is a Tom Cruise-type character who lives next door to Cameron Diaz. She goes to school with the children of celebrities and swears that Brad Pitt was in line behind her at the store. However, Ruby is so sad and angry about having to leave her beloved Aunt Duffy, her best friend Lizzie, and her boyfriend Ray behind that she can't enjoy any of this. She's appalled by the classes her school offers—“I just had to choose / between signing up for / Dream Interpretation Through the Ages, / Introduction to Transcendental Meditation, / or The Films of Steven Spielberg” and the only fun she has is talking with her father's assistant, Max.
One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies is richly filled with great poetry, name-dropping, and e-mails to and from Ruby and her friends. As the year goes on, Ruby and her father learn to understand each other, with a few surprises along the way. This is a great read! —Hannah Gomez